Spain: Documentation of the industrial exploitation of pigs

An investigation by Tras los Muros (Glass Walls )- Author: Aitor Garmendia (Photographer for Animal Liberation)

Factory. The industrial exploitation of pigs.

With a population of more than 30 million, the Spanish pig sector has established itself as the largest producer of live pigs in the European Union, and in 2020 it is expected that the number of animals sent to the slaughterhouse will exceed that of Germany, a country that in these moments ranks first.

Veterinary neglect is common to all farms visited. Animals that suffer from innumerable health problems are not treated for reasons of economic profitability. / October, 2019. Castilla la Mancha.

In July 2019, a slaughterhouse and the largest pig cutting plant in Europe began its activity in Binéfar, in the province of Huesca.
It is estimated that it will lead to the death of 160,000 pigs a week. Under the relentless rhythm of production, animals suffer from systematic exploitation and institutional helplessness.

The images presented in this work as well as the description are representative of the standards in which the industrial exploitation of pigs is developed.

Between 2019 and 2020 I, Aitor Garmendia, have accessed, together with a research team made up of people who have chosen to remain anonymous, to 32 pig farms located in Castilla y León, Aragón, and Castilla-La Mancha.

In them, I have verified and documented the consequences of the structural violence that takes place under the standards of the livestock industry.

Veterinary neglect, non-compliance with the animal welfare law, and the abuses described below are not isolated cases, but rather an inherent part of industrial animal husbandry and exploitation systems.


At the factory farm

More than 95% of the pork meat consumed in Spain comes from intensive farming systems. The farms can be closed-cycle and contain all phases of production (gestation, farrowing, and fattening) in one or more locations geographically close or may be dedicated to covering

All farms operate under similar standards and are governed by the same regulations.

Regardless of their size or their structure in phases, the quality of life of the pigs is compromised in any of them, be these large farms or small facilities managed by families. In their houses, pigs for meat production are housed on concrete floors in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, and females selected for their reproductive capacity spend part of their lives trapped in iron frames.

Área de gestación Aragon 2019

Confinement prevents the natural behavior of pigs, which, like their ancestors, must be able to develop for their well-being. The frustration of your interests and needs leads to numerous health problems.

Unlike other species, pigs lack sweat glands, and their ability to dissipate heat is very limited. If they have the right conditions, they look for cool places, streams, and puddles to take mud baths or rest.

However, on intensive breeding farms the temperatures can be very high – something common in hot months – and given the impossibility of accessing a place to cool off, they have no choice but to wallow in their excrement.

Eye injury-Castilla-La Mancha 2020


Power, propaganda, and right to information

The industry invests millions of euros in propaganda – part of it coming from public funds – in order to project an idea that does not conform to what actually happens.

Images obtained inside farms and slaughterhouses through covert investigations, hidden cameras, or leaks of workers reveal to the public an image contrary to that projected by the meat industry in its advertising campaigns. These images, which expose real livestock practices, have succeeded in amplifying a social debate that meat corporations can no longer avoid.

In spite of everything, through the design of costly propaganda maneuvers and its influence on the public powers and the media, the livestock industry tries to take control of the story, thus influencing public opinion and preventing the exercise of the right to information.

Its power and influence have been revealed in some recent events.

In 2016 the industry was involved in a plot that sought to “counteract the negative information” present in a report where the consumption of meat was linked to the risk of suffering from cancer.

Recently, in July 2020, the “Let’s Talk About Pork From Europe” campaign was launched. As indicated in its press release, it has been designed to deal with the alleged “hoaxes” (Jokes) that are being leveled against the pork sector.

The campaign, financed by the European Union with more than 6 million euros, will last three years and will be coordinated by four important industry lobbies: Organización Interprofesional Agroalimentaria del Porcino de Capa Blanca, l’Interprofession nationale porcino, Aligrupo and Group.

In the United States, the industry has operated in the same way for years. Their lobbies have succeeded in introducing gag laws that target the covert filming of images inside their facilities.

These laws, known as Ag-Gag laws and designed to protect large meat corporations, have also been implemented in countries such as Australia or Canada.

Organizations that defend civil rights, freedom of the press, human rights or consumer rights, agricultural workers unions, and environmental or animal rights organizations have warned that these laws violate freedom of expression, the right to information, animal welfare, labor rights, and food safety.

Umbilical hernia-Castilla-La Mancha 2020

During the performance of this work, all phases of the pig exploitation process have been documented; however, it has not been possible to obtain images of its handling and treatment by the operators. In addition to the farms to which we have access, in others, I have requested permission to document practices such as castration, tail docking, tusk cutting, or insemination. They have all refused.

Mutilation of genitals, tail, and teeth

The European Union directive that establishes the minimum standards for the protection of pigs recognizes that castration, as well as tail docking (tail docking) and partial sectioning of the teeth, are practices that are “harmful to the welfare of pigs, specially when They are executed by incompetent or inexperienced people.

Despite the fact that the legislation itself identifies the aforementioned procedures as a cause of suffering, it not only authorizes them but also allows them to be carried out without anesthesia before the seventh day of life.

Many pigs cannot bear the conditions of exploitation.

If these circumstances occur, the pigs have to be killed on the farm itself.

The procedures allowed by law are the following: captive bolt pistol and subsequent pithing or slaughter; a forceful blow to the head by means of a heavy object – examples are cited: hammer, truncheon or metal pipe – for pigs weighing less than 5kg; free projectile weapon, such as pistol, shotgun, rifle, or revolver; electric shock for pigs weighing more than 5kg; asphyxia by inhalation of gas in containers; or lethal injection.

Except for the latter, which must be carried out by veterinary personnel, all procedures can be carried out by farm operators.

Euthanasia methods: killing on the farm itself

In order to confirm whether the breaches observed during the investigation were isolated events or routine procedures, we have entered some of the farms more than once.

During the first access to a bait shed, we check the existence of dead animals in different enclosures. Months later, during the second access, the bodies were still in the same position.

On both occasions, we find scenes of cannibalism, corpses in a state of decomposition, and remains of bones.

I will end with these words, taken from a livestock magazine published in the 1970s, which accurately describe the historical function assigned to animals destined to serve us as food:

«Let’s forget that the pig is an animal. Let’s treat it like any other machine in the factory”.


And I mean…It is inconceivable to be human and to be silent in the face of the torture of animals, just as it is inconceivable to fight for human rights and to be silent when people are being tortured.

This holocaust of animals is not only a reality in Spain, it is the same everywhere.

We are all responsible for bringing the truth to light.
Most consumers know what is going on behind the walls of the slaughterhouses and are silent, they suppress it or do not care.
Documentation of animal suffering in a farm factory is a thorn in their conscience, so they don’t want to be informed.
Do not present us or inform us, not even if something like this actually happens in the slaughterhouses.

And with their collaboration, they support a fascist system, one of the most inhuman in human history.

My best regards to all, Venus

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